Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

General Scheme of the Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2022: Discussion (Resumed)

Ms Maeve McElwee:

I thank the Senator for his questions.

In response to his first question, we have been doing quite a lot of work on the area of remote and hybrid working. As I said, the issue is of huge interest to our member companies. We have used the opportunity of the past two years to share lots of the good advice and best practice that has grown in those organisations, some of whose staff were working remotely or in a hybrid manner pre-pandemic and had experience of these types of operations. Also, in sharing that experience through member networks, we have done quite a lot of work on developing frequently asked questions and putting together toolkits for employers as to how to go about setting up a remote working policy and on the types of considerations that need to be taken into account. It is a matter of working through how such a policy might be got up and running in the organisation. We have been asked for a lot of advice and guidance on that. Then it is a matter of highlighting the areas in the legislation that need to be looked out for and the areas where companies need to make sure their compliance is appropriate.

There is a great deal of work going on and a lot of very positive engagement for members in the context of getting good practice in place and learning from one another as to how they can best deal with the implementation of remote working.

Most employers feel that we have done remote working relatively well. There are questions around productivity because we are not measuring people in the same way. We know lots of people are not in the ideal environment to be as productive and, as a result, that has not been measured in quite the same detail. Hybrid is very new, and the technology that requires half the people to be in a meeting room versus everybody remotely on one particular screen is different. Sound systems and the etiquette are growing up and we are very much learning. The management of that is a very big learning curve at the moment as well. We are looking at how we train managers and how we put in place appropriate safeguards in order that people do not get forgotten and that they get adequate opportunity. All of those issues need to be addressed. There is a lot of learning going on, and some very strong engagement from members around that.

In response to the second question, we support the procedural element of the WRC investigations. That is because there is a requirement for an employer under this proposed Bill to give a reasoned response. That should, therefore, already be a matter of record which demonstrates that the employer has considered the questions, looked at their own particular circumstances within their business and addressed the issues. We must bear in mind that there may be individual and team-related complexities that are private to other members of the team, but that an employer or section manager may need to take into account in the wider application of some of those requests.

I fully accept the Senator's point on the exemption for smaller organisations as to where the cut-off lies, but we suggest that for very small and microenterprises, the exemption from a legally required right to request remote working policy would alleviate it. That is there.

I apologise for taking up Senator Ahearn's time, but while I have the floor, I confirm that I have opened my own responses on the lobbying register and, in response to the question Deputy Murphy asked me, I understand from my own records that there is a meeting of the Labour Employer Economic Forum subgroup on enterprise, trade and employment. As we have already outlined, that would have been a very general discussion about our views and would not have got into the detail of any of the heads of the general scheme because they were not known to us at the time.


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